Walking down a hallway recently, a small and subtle whiff reached my nose as I walked past.
Almost immediately, I could hear the shrill tweet of a whistle, the thundering squeaks of running shoes on a hardwood floor – yes, I was back in my high school gym. Wait.
Can a particular aroma unearth a memory with such accuracy? Apparently so.
Our sense of smell is closely linked with memory. One reason this may be so has to do with the way our brains process odours and memories.
Smell gets routed through your olfactory bulb, the smell-analyzing region in the brain.
It’s closely connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions that handle memory and emotion.
That smell, so clearly defined in my memory reminds me of the many hours I spent in the gym during high school.
Growing up at the rainy coast, many of our winter hours were spent playing basketball, volleyball or badminton. Friday and Saturday nights we filled the bleachers to cheer on our home favourites.
My memories of early morning practices, awkward first dances and feeling the bench reverberate under me from the screaming and thumping feet of the crowd are forever linked to the unique scents you will only find in a school gym. Yuk!
You may think – why would you want to remember a sweaty, leaky-lunch-bag gym?
For me, the smell of a gym is forever associated with the camaradarie of the team, anticipating the exhilaration of pushing through a tough workout or the chance to put new skills to the test.
As we have shorter days and darker afternoons, many of us think about indoor activities. While many will head to the hills for the outdoor winter sports we enjoy in the Okanagan, some of us will get back to the gym.
Take a look at No Gym Required by Jennifer Cohen, The Heart of Aromatherapy by Andrea Butje or If only you knew home much I smell you by Valerie Shaff, available at the library.
By the way, if you’re wondering what a gym smells like, it’s apples and baby powder, hard work and hair gel, dust and text books and of course, a smidgen of A535 rub.
Sue Kline is the community librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library and former high school athlete.